About 2,000 rubber duckies will make their way down the Yampa River on Saturday to help raise money for the Yampa Valley Medical Center's Cardiac Care Services.

File photo

About 2,000 rubber duckies will make their way down the Yampa River on Saturday to help raise money for the Yampa Valley Medical Center's Cardiac Care Services.

Rubber Ducky Race on Saturday

Event organizers hope to raise as much as $30K for hospital

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Rubber Ducky Race

Rubber Duckies Lee Gamble and Alice Freschie from the Hospital Auxiliary make waves on the Steamboat Today morning show talking about the 22nd Annual Rubber Ducky Race taking place Saturday at 10 a.m. between 5th and 13th Streets along the Yampa River.

Rubber Duckies Lee Gamble and Alice Freschie from the Hospital Auxiliary make waves on the Steamboat Today morning show talking about the 22nd Annual Rubber Ducky Race taking place Saturday at 10 a.m. between 5th and 13th Streets along the Yampa River.

If you go

What: 22nd annual Yampa River Rubber Ducky Race

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Race starts at the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat

Cost: $10 buys a rubber duck for the race

Other: Ducks can be purchased in advance at City Market and Safeway, or before the race at the Fifth Street Bridge. All event proceeds benefit the Yampa Valley Medical Center Auxiliary.

— The cost to purchase a ticket for the Yampa River Rubber Ducky Race - $10 - hasn't changed since its first year in 1988.

But a number of things have.

During that first event - which has become the annual fundraiser sponsored by the Yampa Valley Medical Center's Auxiliary - organizers hoped to sell 500 tickets and raise $5,000. This year, they hope to raise $20,000 to $30,000 by selling more than 2,000 rubber duckies for the 10 a.m. Saturday race down the Yampa, said Sandie Ihlenfeldt, an Auxiliary member.

In 1988, the race's first prize was a season ski pass to Steamboat Ski Area. The prize remains the same, but it's monetary value certainly has changed - from $390 in 1988 to about $1,000 today.

Christine McKelvie, the hospital's public relations director, still remembers that first race.

"It just really took off and people really embraced this event," she said.

This year's version starts at the Fifth Street Bridge, where all the rubber duckies will be dumped into the river. The first ducky to make it past the finish line at the 13th Street bridge wins. Proceeds from this year's event will benefit the hospital's new Cardiac Care Services, including wellness, education, community outreach and diagnostic services. All Rubber Ducky Race prizes are donated by area businesses, and volunteers staff the event, leaving all the proceeds for the Cardiac Care Services, Ihlenfeldt said.

The Auxiliary surveys hospital employees each year to help it determine where event proceeds should be dedicated, Ihlenfeldt said. In years past, McKelvie said proceeds from the race refurbished and redecorated the hospital's family waiting room and purchased equipment for the special care nursery.

Ihlenfeldt said ticket sales are slower this year, likely because of the economy, but members of the hospital's Auxiliary are hopeful the 22nd annual race will be as successful as it has been in recent years.

"Even in a time when money is tight - merchants, professionals, everyone seems eager to help us out with a prize," she said. "And everyone is supportive in buying tickets. I think that's the big thing this year."

Members of the Auxiliary will be at Safeway and City Market this week selling tickets. Each ticket is good for one rubber ducky in the race. Tickets also will be available the morning of the race near the Fifth Street Bridge. Prizes will be awarded to the owners of the first 75 duckies that cross the finish line.

Ihlenfeldt attributed the event's annual success to its appeal for everyone.

"What's so nice about (the Rubber Ducky Race) is the whole family can participate - out-of-town people and the Steamboat community," she said. "They run along the racecourse. They're excited. They cheer for their adopted ducks. They wait at the end of the racecourse. Because it's a family event, the entire Steamboat community supports it."

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